by Rich Klein
Sometimes story leads are easy to write, sometimes coming up with a lead is downright difficult.
In the case of Bill Mastro finally admitting he trimmed what is now best known as the “PSA 8 Honus Wagner” card, there are so many twists and turns that trying to write in a few paragraphs what Michael O’Keefe and Teri Thompson did in their book The Card seems like a fruitless task. However, like everyone else in this business I have my own thoughts—for all they’re worth.
The first thought is that one of the longest running and known “open hobby secrets” is no more. For years hobby insiders have long believed this card was trimmed. In fact I had first heard the rumors more than 15 years ago and even had a couple of dealers tell me they owned before and after photos of the Wagner card. Now that it’s a fact, I would like to see all the before and after photos be released so everyone can see and make their own judgments.
Second thought, if I had the money to purchase that card, I would not only do so, I’d pay a profit to the current owner. Sounds strange you would say. Knowing card’s history, why would you want it? The reason is simple; this is now unquestionably the most famous–and infamous– card in the hobby. Owning it has proven to be a good investment before and I don’t think that’s going to change. No one is denying the card is real. It still presents amazingly well and that’s what so many people like about it. Now with the back story confirmed and the fact that there is even an entire book written about it makes it even more famous.
Another thought which comes out of this is “stuff trumps everything’. Let us be honest here, most of us do not know or necessarily care about the background of the person from whom we buy or to whom we sell cards All we care about as collectors is buying a nice item for our collection and as sellers to get the price we’re after. I guarantee you if I went up the river without a paddle and then came back five years later with a collection of T231 Fans Cigarette cards from circa 1922-23 including a Ruth and a Cobb, I would get a lot of money for those cards. Since only three examples, of which one is a photocopy, are known from that set, a find of these cards which included major superstars would go for a lot of money. How much would depend on how many cards, the condition, and other factors but if I made a find like that, I would never have to work again.
So, the question to you is this: Would you, now knowing the complete history of the “PSA 8 Wagner” now purchase this card? For me, the answer is yes because of the history. You might say no– or yes as long as a few changes are made to the holder (one suggestion which has been made is have the label changed to ‘PSA 8 Hand Cut’).
To me, one of the most amazing aspects of this card is the real interest compared to the world’s most expensive stamp. The British Guyana 1c magenta from 1856 of which only one copy is known and according to Wikipedia (and we know how accurate the Internet can be), the card is probably locked up in a bank vault since the last known owner died while in incarceration. To me, the even more interesting point is this stamp is dirty, and it’s been canceled. Could you imagine if the most famous baseball card was in a similar condition?
There are always more questions than answers as it comes to the famed T206 Honus Wagner. Some have said fewer than 60 exist. I always personally believed there are more than 100 known copies as in our first edition of Beckett Vintage magazine we ran a great photo spread of all the known Wagners. I’m sure we did not cover them all and some more have surfaced since then. Whatever the final verdict is, hobbyists will be discussing any and all topics relating to the T206 Honus Wagner as long as we all collect cards.
Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected]